House Majority Leader Richard Gephardt and two other congressmen last month urged Russian President Boris Yeltsin to support a plan to bring public finance to his country.
In a letter to the Russian leader signed by rep. Gephardt, D.-Missouri, Rep. Thomas J. Downey, D-N.Y., and Rep. Samuel Gejdenson, D-Conn., the three congressmen said public finance techniques could help the Russian people in their battle to develop a free market economy.
The letter singled out EcoLink Inc., a not-for-profit organization founded in 1990 to teach Russians about American-style municipal bonds through small-scale public finance projects.
"In the United States, public finance is the ~free market's gift to the public sector,'" the letter says. "It is the tool that government uses to develop public purpose projects such as roads, hospitals, housing, and industry."
EcoLink has proposed using bonds to finance an AIDS hospital and a system of local grain storage facilities in Russia, but progress has been repeatedly stymied by political upheaval in the former Soviet Union.
After about 18 trips to Moscow over the past three years, Jeffrey A. Sachs, the organizations's president, recently secured renewed support from the current Russian leadership.
"EcoLink exemplifies the kind of volunteerism that has innovated many important social, educational, and economic developments in the United States," the letter says, commending Russian officials' decision to keep the effort alive despite the end of the Soviet Union.
"We urge your personal support for the advancement of this important initiative," the congressmen wrote to President Yeltsin.
The EcoLink team consists of several U. S. financial institutions, and public finance experts, including Goldman Sachs & Co.; Salomon Brothers; Smith Barney, Harris Upham & Co.; and Lehman Brothers.
J. Chester Johnson and Freda Johnson, who run Government Finance Associates Inc., recently resigned their positions as financial advisers to EcoLink.